Building Big Strong Brands

Few people who have kids would argue that parenting is easy.  It takes constant, hard work and lots of it.  It’s not a set and forget scenario, it takes continuous supervision and monitoring, evaluation and negotiation.

The same goes for your brand.  And many brand managers, marketers and business owners will, quite rightly, see their brand as their baby.  But while it’s easy to get entirely absorbed by the day to day operations of running the business, bringing in the next client, launching the next product, it’s vital that you keep an eye on the kids; supervise the brand, ensure it’s happy and healthy and growing up the way that you believe it should.  Especially for new brands which take careful planning and strategy.  What should my brand look like?  How do we want consumers to feel about it?  What is its personality?  What should it look like visually?  What tone of voice should we give it?

Even when brands are carefully ‘brought up’ and managed they can be sabotaged.  One of the strongest and most successful brands of the entertainment industry, brand Taylor Swift is a prime example of how even the most meticulously managed brands can be damaged, either by mishap, mismanagement, or misfortune.

Team Taylor has worked hard to develop a mighty brand that has seen her top the Forbes list of celebrity earnings in 2016.  Her personal brand has become so powerful that her recent Tumblr post addressed “To Apple, Love Taylor” got Apple’s CEO to back down on Apple not paying royalties to musicians during the three-month free trial of their new music streaming service.

Despite the potency of this brand, it has undoubtedly suffered a significant blow.  Without even taking notice of the who said this and who did what of the whole very high profile saga, it is an interesting furore to analyse from a brand perspective.  It demonstrates the fragility of brands, and the nurturing and protecting required to help them grow and prosper.

While Taylor’s brand has suffered from less controllable, external forces, it is entirely perplexing when brands and businesses act and communicate in a way that damages their own brand from within.

At a more local level, we were recently made aware of an intriguing piece of email marketing that serves as a manual on how to alienate customers and erode brand equity.  The email came from a local car dealer, but has significant implications for the parent brand, in this case the car manufacturer that this dealer represents.  The email purported to contain an exclusive trade in offer, using vague terms such as ‘you qualify’ and ‘we’ve selected your file from our records’.  Despite their thinly veiled attempts to make this offer appear bespoke to the individual, it was glaringly clear that the dealer was simply trying to dress up their standard trade in process as a special offer.  This immediately makes the reader suspicious and dismissive.

The messaging was vague and made an effort to use perplexing (but hopefully impressive) terms such as ‘payment match’.  The communication also made claims that weren’t quantified, let alone verified, saying they were offering ‘higher trade in amounts’.  What does that even mean and how does it benefit the prospective customer?  And after shouting about the exclusive, one off nature of the offer, the email signs off by saying ‘kindly pass this notice to a friend’.  Doesn’t sound so exclusive after all, does it?  The whole communication was full of broken promises and plays right to the stereotype of the used car salesman.  Sloppy and obviously underhanded communications such as this have the potential to do real harm to not only your own business, but any associate or parent brands.

So how do I build a brand and protect it from damage?

Define your brand

Invest the time, energy and money in defining who you are.  Who you want to be.  What it is you stand for.  Where you want to go.  Once clarity is agreed upon, ensure that everyone in your business is clear on the brand and its strategy.

Continually re-evaluate your brand and business

This is not a case of set and forget.  Brands are living, evolving creatures, and have a relationship with the world in which they exist.  It’s important that as the business evolves, that the time is taken to re asses and re define the brand and its direction if necessary.

Create trust

Construct a brand that your clients, suppliers, employees and other associates trust.  Do what you say you will do.  Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

Be consistent, but not repetitive

A key objective and outcome of building a clear brand strategy is you create the tools to enable you to be consistent in your message.  This doesn’t mean always saying the same thing, it just means that whatever you say is true to your brand values.

Be distinctive

Spend the time to analyse your competitor landscape.  Work out what makes you unique and different and build a brand that heroes and expresses that element.  Find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Build a brand that you genuinely believe in

Make sure your brand is something you can get passionate about.  It will come through in your messaging and make the work more rewarding for you and your team.

If all this sounds like a lot of hard work, that’s because it is.  But strong brands don’t just happen.  They take time, energy and focus.  By devoting this to your brand baby, you give it the best chance to grow up big and strong.